A pinched nerve, also called a compressed nerve by doctors, is a common ailment. It occurs when force or pressure is placed on a nerve, sending warning signals to your brain that something is wrong, and can happen anywhere in the body. However, nerves become pinched most often in the following areas:
It’s important to take care of symptoms as soon as possible, as people who experience this ailment are more at risk for other problems in the future, including carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, and sciatica.
The most common cause is when a nerve is damaged and unable to send regular signals to your brains, causing your feelings of tingling or numbness. It can happen for a large range of reasons, which makes causes often difficult to pinpoint.
Most often, symptoms are caused by your lifestyle and the activities or habits you have. Sitting, standing, or even walking can contribute to pinching a nerve if you have poor posture. However, injuries from sports or similar repetitive actions can compress a nerve as well. Obesity may also play a serious role, as it causes extra pressure and weight on the body.
You could also have a herniated disc or bone spurs that are compressing a nerve or suffer from arthritis in the area you’re experiencing symptoms.
How To Know You Pinched A Nerve
The easiest way to know exactly what’s going on with your body is to see a doctor and go through a physical examination. Compressed nerves are common, and you may not need to go through tests to know your ailment if you know what signs to look for. However, serious cases may require more serious treatment.
The warning signs caused by this ailment can cause various symptoms in your body, often around the nerve. The most common signs or symptoms include the following:
Your symptoms may change depending on your movements and the area of your body that’s the most affected. You may notice symptoms become worse when you are just about to fall asleep or feel at their peak just after you wake up in the morning.
How To Treat Pinched Nerves At Home
Compressed nerves are typically not very serious, which means they can easily be treated at home. While serious cases may require a doctor, you can alleviate mild pain in your own home. There are many ways to treat nerve pain, and some of the following options can even be done at the same time to help you recover faster. The important thing is to figure out what works best for you.
Rest And Sleep Longer
Rest and sleep are essential for healing. Your body works to repair itself as you sleep and allowing yourself more time to rest and sleep may help reduce your symptoms quicker. Not only does this allow the nerve to heal on its own, but rest also helps you avoid overusing the nerve and causing further damage.Overuse can make the problem worse, so you should avoid movements that irritate the nerve and sleep in a position that relieves pressure from the area.
Wear A Splint
Depending on the affected area, a splint can help prevent further damage while your nerves begin to heal. This treatment option is most common with compressed nerves in the hands or wrists, which are used day in and out. Splints work to reduce the pressure on the nerve while you move.
Many people will even sleep with the splint to reduce any irritation during the middle of the night, especially if you move around as you sleep.
Try Heat Or Ice
Either a warm or cold compress can help reduce inflammation and pain symptoms you may be experiencing. Both may not work for the same problem, but in most cases, heat and ice treatments are extremely effective.
If you don’t have any ice at home or an ice pack, simply wrap a bag of frozen peas around the area three time per day for 5-15 minutes each time. Hot treatments can be done at home by wrapping a hot water bottle in a cloth and applying it to your neck or the affected area for 10-20 minutes, two or three times per day. Heating pads can also be found at a typical drugstore.
Ice is known to reduce swelling and inflammation while the heat can be used to relax the muscles that may be tight near the injured nerve. Heat will also increase blood flow, helping the healing process. If you find that heat helps, you can increasingly apply more heat for up to one hour per day.
The best way to know which one will work best for you is to try them out and repeat the process until you notice some relief. Alternating ice and heat together can also increase your blood circulation and relieve pain quickly.
Elevate Your Legs
If your nerve pain is in your back, elevating your legs will relieve added pressure on the spine and help reduce your symptoms. All you have to do is place a few pillows under your knees, lifting your legs to a 45-degree angle in relation to the body..
Use An Over-the-Counter Pain Reliever
Pain relieving medications like non-steroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen will reduce the swelling and relieve some of your pain. If you’re taking other medications or need help with dosage recommendations, always consult a doctor to avoid potentially dangerous drug interactions.
Check Your Posture
Nerve issues are often caused or enhanced by poor posture, so you may need to pay attention to the way you sit or stand. Incorrect posture over an extended period of time can place added stress on the body and damage the muscles and spine, which leads to compressed nerves.
Try using adjustable chairs, cushions, and neck rests while sitting to relieve pressure. This will allow the nerve to heal on its own and improving your posture will help. Make sure you sit with your back straight and supported and avoid sleeping on your stomach because this placed added strain on the head.
Try A Standing Work Desk
Because posture, while sitting and working, is a common culprit, changing your workstation may help your pain as well. Try to keep your head backward so that the weight is distributed directly over your spine instead of cramping your neck and lift your workspace to eye level to avoid bending. A standing work desk or better working posture is insanely helpful, as many people work desk jobs today.
Exercise And Lifestyle Changes
Low-impact exercise and lifestyle changes will help long-term by reducing symptoms and keeping the body in top shape. Try walking, swimming, yoga, or bicycling as a part of a daily workout, especially if you’re overweight. Be sure to gently stretch before and after exercise to keep the body flexible. Stretching too deeply will only make the problem worse.
Losing extra weight may reduce pressure on the nerves and provide increased mobility that helps with inflammation and pain. However, if you experience pain and physical discomfort during exercise, stop immediately to avoid further damage.
When You Should Stop And See A Doctor
Listen to your body and the warning signals it is sending to your brain. If you’re experiencing pain from a compressed nerve that persists regardless of regular treatment for longer than a few days, you should contact your doctor.
There are also a few more serious symptoms your doctor should know about right away. If you experience the following symptoms, seek medical attention as soon as possible:
Your doctor will most likely request imaging tests like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan. These tests will provide a better picture of what’s happening with the nerves inside your body in order to narrow down how they’re affected and find the right treatment options for you.
Often, painkillers or corticosteroids are prescribed, and physical therapy or surgery may be required in more severe cases. Surgery on compressed nerves, like any surgical treatment, comes with its own set of risks and complications. If you are considering surgery, it’s important to speak to medical professionals to ensure this treatment option is the best plan of action for you.